Late Night Thoughts: Friday, March 17, 2017

(About an 8 minute read)

I turned 60 a couple months ago. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting older has been that I don’t worry as much about my mistakes as I used to when I was younger.

I still make as many — or even more — mistakes as I ever did, but I just don’t worry about them as much. Instead, I let the victims of my mistakes do the worrying, for part of my getting older has been my learning how to properly delegate responsibility.

I recently got involved in a discussion of nudity.  Someone said that nudity was against Christian principles for women.  That is, women should be modest in their apparel.

Then someone else pointed out there wasn’t much that was more modest than nudity.  “Hard to put on airs when you ain’t got nothing else on.”

Do you suppose American women, by and large, have similar handwriting?

At least, it’s my impression that a woman’s handwriting usually resembles other women’s handwriting to a greater degree than a man’s handwriting is apt to resemble other men’s handwriting.  Put differently, it seems more difficult to tell women apart than it seems it is to tell men apart.

If that is indeed the case, then why is it the case?

And if it is true of American women, is it true of women elsewhere?

I’ve heard people say we can never know for certain what it feels like to be someone else.  But is that really true? Is it never possible to know for certain what it feels like to be someone else?

Yesterday, I was with my friend Don for a late lunch. Don and I go back a long ways and we know each other pretty well.

At one point during our lunch, he said something that was so profound it went completely over my head and I couldn’t even begin to fathom what he meant.  I felt lost and stupid.

Then I suddenly realized: “Surely, this is what it feels like to be a politician!”

Who am I?

If you ask most of us who we are, we will answer you by naming one or another relationship. We are, for instance, a husband.  Or a golfer.  Or a businessman.  But to say we are a husband, or a golfer, or a businessman, is each case to define our self in terms of the relationship we have to something.

In contrast, we tend not to define our self in terms of what is happening with us at any given moment.  I do not think of myself as someone whose shoulder is itching. Or as someone who happens to be looking at a computer monitor.  Or as someone who is wishing it was dawn.  All of those are transient things — too transient for me to think of them as “me”.

Yet, being a husband, a golfer, or a businessman are also transient.  That is, if you really think about it, you are not simply “a husband”.  You are only sometimes a husband.  Just as your shoulder only sometimes itches.  And it is only a convention of thought that you imagine yourself to always — or continuously — be a husband.

The Cosmic Dancer, declares Nietzsche, does not rest heavily in a single spot, but gaily, lightly, turns and leaps from one position to another. It is possible to speak from only one point at a time, but that does not invalidate the insights of the rest. – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1968, p. 229.

While it might be true Nietzsche never wrote what Campbell attributes to him, Campbell’s “paraphrase” of Nietzsche’s views ranks as a sharp insight in itself.

We humans sometimes wish to construct systems of thought — worldviews — that are consistent throughout and encompass everything.  Yet, such “views” are simply beyond us, and might even be logically impossible.

So, perhaps the best we can do is to become Cosmic Dancers.  That is, folks who are capable of looking at things from many angles and perspectives, who are capable of dancing between views, but who do not settle dogmatically on any one point of view.

The mane is thought to keep the neck warm, and possibly to help water run off the neck if the animal cannot obtain shelter from the rain. It also provides some fly protection to the front of the horse, although the tail is usually the first defense against flies.

Wikipedia

I’m not buying it.  I find it implausible that manes would evolve because horses with manes had warmer necks, and that their warmer necks proved to be significant to their reproductive success.  There must be some other reason manes evolved.

But what would that be?

I was thinking sexual selection.  That is, I was thinking manes are like the male peacock’s tail.  It provides no survival advantage, but the female peacock’s like it. So the females pick the males with the best tails to mate with.  That’s what I was thinking.

But then I remembered that both male and female horses have manes. So now I’m thinking sexual selection probably isn’t the reason horses evolved manes.

But what is the reason?

For the sake of discussion, let us assume there’s an able god.  By “able”, I mean that god is capable of doing anything that does not violate the rules of logic.  For instance, it can create the universe, but it cannot create a square circle because a square circle is logically impossible.

Next, let us assume that god unconditionally loves all of creation, including each one of us.

Is that scenario logically possible?

Well, I think it is possible. I would not account it very probable. It’s not something I’d bank on.  But possible?  Yes.

Now, let us assume the same two conditions — an able god and that god’s unconditional love — plus a third condition.

The third condition is there exists a hell that is a part of creation and to which people are sent after their death if they disobey the god.

Is the new scenario logically possible?

I do not think so.  Instead,. I think the new scenario involves a logical contradiction and consequently cannot exist.  That is, it cannot be real.  But what is that contradiction?

Well, how can you logically have an able god that loves you unconditionally and also causes you to go to hell if you disobey that god?

So far as I can see, you cannot.  An unconditionally loving god would neither impose a condition upon it’s love ( i.e. if you do not obey me, I will not love you) nor would an unconditionally loving god, if it were able to prevent it, allow it’s beloved to come to harm (i.e. if you do not obey me, I will cause or allow you to go to hell).

But what do you think?  Is it an amusing logic puzzle?  Or have I just had too much caffeine again?

Four Quotes From Voltaire:

Les habiles tyrans ne sont jamais punis.

— Clever tyrants are never punished.

C’est une des superstitions de l’esprit humain d’avoir imaginé que la virginité pouvait être une vertu.

It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.

Nous cherchons tous le bonheur, mais sans savoir où, comme les ivrognes qui cherchent leur maison, sachant confusément qu’ils en ont une.

We all look for happiness, but without knowing where to find it: like drunkards who look for their house, knowing dimly that they have one.

Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois: Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l’avons ordonné; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l’ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n’opposez point aux ordres de croire l’impossible l’intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre coeur. Une faculté de votre âme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l’être également. Et c’est là ce qui a produit tous les crimes religieux dont la terre a été inondée.

Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever is able to make you absurd is able to make you unjust. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

(Source)

A while back, I was sitting in a coffee shop when I noticed — just beyond the window — a girl of about 14 or 16 dressed in a highly sexualized manner.  That is, her clothing was flamboyantly sexual even for an adolescent.  Moverover, she was flirting with a boy, who appeared a bit older than her, and she very soon straddled his lap in order to grind against him.  I couldn’t recall when I had last seen in public such an overt display of sexuality — outside of an erotic dance club.

Now, the girl was not physically attractive by American conventions. For one thing, she was much too fat to be fashionable.  For another thing, she had a rather plain face thickly coated with cosmetics.  And, though her clothing was notable for being revealing, it did not seem that she had put much thought into the combination she’d chosen.

So, it wasn’t long before I began to wonder whether the poor girl might be suffering from low self-esteem.  That is, it seemed possible that she thought of herself as not having much to offer the boys besides sex.

I was thinking along those sad lines when I heard a male voice at the table behind me say, “God! Look at that slut!”

Of course, I don’t know whether he was talking about the girl, or about someone else.  I didn’t ask.  Yet, I assumed he was indeed talking about the girl — and that made me feel old.  Old and tired.

You see, the one attractive thing I had noticed about the girl in the few minutes I’d been watching her was that she seemed so full of life.  Even if her dress and mannerisms were motivated by low self-esteem — and I didn’t know that for certain — she appeared at the moment happy.  She was, if only for a while, the queen of her universe.  It wearied me to think anyone would simply dismiss her as a slut.

8 thoughts on “Late Night Thoughts: Friday, March 17, 2017

  1. Too much at once! My mind is reeling.
    Handwriting- I think my sister emulated our mother. Mine looks more like my father’s – random print in the middle of cursive. Spikey and hard to read, it seems. It’s always been a failure of mine to have good legible handwriting, despite being artistic by nature. It’s just not something I ever cared to work on.
    I’ve been other people in dreams. By that I mean it wasn’t my current body, but I’m pretty sure I was still me in there. My brain made it up, so it has to be me, right?
    I’m an atheist so not much point to me in thinking about gods. Other than their impact on human behaviour.

    When I was a very young child (between 6 and 8) I blew my own mind with (for me) the original idea that maybe we are all players in someone else’s dream. Mine are so vivid and seem to last for days – then and now.

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    • An atheist? Most days of the week I am too. Someone once told me that I was actually an apatheist — from apathetic + theist, because I’m mostly indifferent to the question of whether a god exists or not.

      What interesting dreams you have!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I claim that word as one that describes me. And feminist, of course. But we are all much more than words that can describe a bit of our mindset.
    Unfortunately I know, and know of, too many people who have been damaged by religion to be apathetic about it. It’s been an interesting struggle just for me to be able to say I’m atheist, and a much harder road for my husband.
    I love my dreams! Wish I wasn’t having to medicate right now as it dampens them down. I’ve died, I’ve had dreams come true in eerie detail, and I definitely dream in colour. I’ve also learned how to lucid dream, which is great fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heretherebespiders, you’re a fascinating person! I sense you not only have an engaging story to tell about your journey to atheism, but I would also so love to hear about the dreams that came true! I’ve been fascinated with that and similar things for a bit over 40 years now.

      As for religion, I’m deeply troubled by the damage it so often does to people, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I try to take a balanced view of that, and see that it’s done some good too, but it’s rather hard not to be outraged by the evils.

      When I described myself as “apathetic” I meant in a philosophical sense. To be precise, I think god is an unnecessary hypothesis — that is, the universe can be explained through the sciences without need of positing the existence of a god. Hence, I’m almost always indifferent to the idea on a philosophical level. What does it matter whether god exists or not if god is unnecessary to explain anything that happens in the world?

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  3. Wow your series of Late Night Thoughts is original and fascinating! I actually find that everyone’s handwriting looks the same. I remember in grade school, the girls would make theirs more loopy because that was cuter. I don’t think the boys cared so much about that. But there is a familiar distinctly neat quality to some boys writing. But maybe also to girl writing? I’m starting to think that gendering writing styles is a muddy business. I have met many a girl with ICONIC handwriting and many a boy who wrote all their letters the same: in blocky print.
    Now about God and Hell – if you have read Dante’s Inferno, you will notice that all of the punishments that God deals out are metaphors for what the person did with their life. Were you lustful? Then you are forever being whisked away in the winds of desire, never landing back on solid ground. Were you gluttonous? then you are endlessly going to be lying in the mud while it rains torrential shit. Perhaps that’s God’s way of loving the sinful? “Fine, I’ll give you what you want.” Thoughts?

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    • I think handwriting styles seem to some extent to depend on the methods used to teach them. When I was in school, the Palmer method was used. I once collected just short of 500 signatures for a high school petition. The girl’s signatures were in general very close to the Palmer ideal. The boy’s signatures were sometimes close to the ideal, but my impression was that they usually departed from it much more than the girl’s signatures. If so, I have no idea why. It’s a trivial difference anyway.

      Dante’s notion of just punishments puts me in mind of the notion, held by Augustine and many others, that hell is separation from God. That is, one is consigned to hell largely because one has rejected God — hence, it’s only fitting that hell be separation from Him.

      .

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